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Flying with instruments - my guide


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#1 Dan_Nailed

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 06:29 PM

Been reading around on here and seen a few different tactics for going on planes with basses/guitars. Having done this more than few times in various different ways I've discovered a few methods and tips that should stop your stuff getting damaged, and if it does get damaged, how to get compensated by the necessary parties.

The undisputed best way to travel IME is by booking an extra seat for your instrument. With plane tickets to the continent costing so little this is a great approach. Nailed flew over to Ireland and we booked three extra seats for two guitars and bass, it worked out costing £70 between four of us for all the seats, and the instruments never left our hands. Obviously be careful going through security - put cables and any tools/string cutters/polish etc in your checked baggage. With Ryanair, the extra seats were only £10 each whereas checking in a music instrument bigger than a violin was £25 per instrument. Also taking the guitar onboard protects your fragile hold weight allowance, which on budget flights is usually around 20KG per person. My lightest bass is my bolt-on Spector, which weighs 11kg in it's case with no pedals, cables, or straps - ,my Korean Spector is closer to 14KG as the case is slightly bigger. Your cases don't have to be flight cases, you can take a gigbag if you like.

An added bonus is that usually, the plane staff will sit you right at the front of the plane as due to emergency requirements the biggest, loose items need to be up front. This means you get a free "upgrade" to better leg room and get to watch the snooty weekend businessmen trudge past you on a Sunday morning flight to the battery chicken stalls that the world refers to as "mid-aircraft".

However, buying an extra seat just sometimes isn't cost effective, and you have to check in. In that case, here's my packing advice:

1. ONLY put the instrument in there if possible, however if there isn't someone with you taking checked baggage then feel free to put all your crap in the case, pedals, pliers, etc etc. all the security risks that can't be taken in the cabin.

2. Buy a case with a lock, and use it. Padlocks are OK, combination padlocks better.

3. Gaffa tape over the clasps, at least four times around the case per clasp. Use the stickiest tape you've got and press it down firmly. Tape over this tape 4 times with Fragile tape.

4. But a strap with a combination clasp on it, as strong as you can afford, thread this under the case handle and lock.

At this point it's useful to point out that none of this will stop baggage handlers getting into your luggage, but it will deter them. Security "checks" of baggage are generally unnecessary as X-ray machines pickup most threats. If they try and get into your case, they're usually stealing.

When putting the instrument in the case I like to wrap bubble wrap around the body neck and headstock, and lay a double layer of bubble under the instrument and a single layer on top. It'll be hard to close the case but the guitar won't move inside the case, which is what causes most damage, and if the wood is fairly thin it will bulk out the internals and if anything heavy lands on your case and cracks it, the pressure should force the wood out and stop moisture etc getting in.

CHECK IN AT OVERSIZE BAGGAGE, EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO. Prague airport had massive conveyors in the terminal, but we went to oversize baggage anyway. Oversize is usually dealt with last, which means it's last in the hold but first out - doesn't have 200 bags lying on top of it. Also leads nicely to...

Inspect the instrument IN BAGGAGE COLLECTION. Take it off the conveyor, and start opening it. The Nazi's in airport security haven't banned you carrying keys yet so use them to cut the tape and unlock and locks. IF YOU LEAVE THE BAGGAGE CLAIM WITHOUT CHECKING IT FIRST ANY LIABILITY IS FORFEIT BY THE AIRLINE. Even your travel insurance will try and wriggle out of it, if you bought any.

If the instrument is damaged, which it shouldn't be, you have to make a damage report in-situ. There should be airport staff who can bring a member of your airline staff down to you and take a formal report. Don't leave the baggage area if at all possible, and if you do, leave the instrument there with a member of staff. Any time the item is unattended or leaves the baggage area is a chance for them to dodge their responsibility.

Think that about covers it...more text than I thought!

Edited by Dan_Nailed, 13 February 2009 - 06:31 PM.


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Posted 13 February 2009 - 06:32 PM

Excellent thread..... Picked up some great tips, thanks....
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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:15 PM

Yep. Good post. Good advice.

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:29 PM

Cheers Dan,

Timely advice.....i'm flying down to South Africa in 2 weeks, & will be taking a new bass with me! I won't be buying an extra seat, but it will be definitely boarding the plane with me & hopefuly going in a wardrobe nearby.

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#5 Dan_Nailed

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 07:39 PM

If that's your plan then make sure you organise it well in advance and not on the day! Every airline differs but usually it's the captain's discretion, I'd sort it first. Long haul flights are less stringent, if you were going to Paris or something on easyjet they'd probably tell you to stick it in the hold or buy a seat(to earn them mroe money) but to South Africa I'd guess it's a slightly better airline and they'll have a more professional, old-school feature called "customer service". You can employ "customer service" to your benefit in obtaining a flying experience where you're treated like a "human being".

You may not be familiar with these terms if you've flown with Easyjet, bmibaby or Jet2 before...

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Posted 13 February 2009 - 08:36 PM

You know if you read the title of this thread as a pilot, flying with instruments has a whole different meaning ;)

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 11:27 AM

Hey man - good advice

As it happens I'm off to Morocco on Saturday to play at a festival and I've kind of resigned myself to putting my bass in the hold as an extra seat is out of the question - I've been told I could chance it and take the bass on as hand luggage (I've flown a couple of times this year already and seen musicians on various flights bringing different instruments into the cabin) - but I was warned that while they might be OK with this on the outward flight, they could insist on the bass going in the hold on the way home.

The good news is that I bought a Bass Safe a few years back when I flew to Thailand and it worked great then - it holds the instrument very securely inside it - and is less likely to 'accidentally' open during the flight. The only paranoid thought I have then is "what if they lose the damn thing...???" - but I already had that when I came back from Thailand, and BA actually delivered the bass to my door the next day and saved me the hassle of dragging it back from the airport...!

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Any thoughts on my trip would be appreciated - I'm insured through the MU and fingers crossed it should all be fine - it's just pre-flight jitters on my part - I'm sure it'll be OK!

Cheers

Mike

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 11:47 AM

Hey Mike - did you hear about Dave Mark's Sei getting stopped at Security in Israel. It went missing for a few days... he was pissed. Bottom clenching times. All turned out good in the end though. I had a similar heart stopping moment when German security were alarmed by the amount of "stuff" going on inside my Rumour. (Looked well cool in the x-ray machine) Once that I showed them the lightshow and stuff, they seemed happy... but I wouldn' t have been happy in the slightest had they confiscated that bass!

Best thing is that if you don't have to take your precious basses on flights, don't. If you have to take your bass and know that you can get it onto the flight, make sure that you put them in a good quality gig and always carry them down next to your legs when you are at security, check in, boarding the plane etc. Anything that looks big will more likely cause you problems. As urb says, getting the thing on as hand luggage in the UK is all well and good... it can be different in other countries... and not many people appreciate the delicate nature/expense of some instruments.

The Bass Safe is a good option... and so is a full flight case... but don't be surprise if accidents still happen. When taking one of my GBs out to the states, the flightcase (a fully fledged hardcore effort - not a cheap thing) it was in was as good as written off. Something had speared through it and just missed the neck. If the case had been the other way round, that would have been the body...

Of course, you only get to hear the horror stories - I am sure there are thousands of instruments transported without issue...

Oh yeah, and don't forget your allen keys - your neck is likely to move in the hold due to the lower temperature and in a different climate!

#9 gafbass02

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 12:02 PM

View PostGreeneKing, on Feb 13 2009, 09:36 PM, said:

You know if you read the title of this thread as a pilot, flying with instruments has a whole different meaning :)

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 12:06 PM

View PostDan_Nailed, on Feb 13 2009, 07:29 PM, said:

The undisputed best way to travel IME is by booking an extra seat for your instrument.

How do you actually go about booking the seat, in particular online when a name is required? Mr Bass Guitar, or do you book two seats in your own name?

What about check in? How does the conversation usually go? Do you get two boarding cards etc?

From the tone of your post it seems there are no problems booking an extra seat, but I'm just curious if the airlines (low cost airlines) and security may frown on it and cause you problems and try to stop you from flying or charge you extra money etc.

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 12:30 PM

View PostEBS_freak, on Jun 10 2009, 12:47 PM, said:

Hey Mike - did you hear about Dave Mark's Sei getting stopped at Security in Israel. It went missing for a few days... he was pissed. Bottom clenching times. All turned out good in the end though. I had a similar heart stopping moment when German security were alarmed by the amount of "stuff" going on inside my Rumour. (Looked well cool in the x-ray machine) Once that I showed them the lightshow and stuff, they seemed happy... but I wouldn' t have been happy in the slightest had they confiscated that bass!

Best thing is that if you don't have to take your precious basses on flights, don't. If you have to take your bass and know that you can get it onto the flight, make sure that you put them in a good quality gig and always carry them down next to your legs when you are at security, check in, boarding the plane etc. Anything that looks big will more likely cause you problems. As urb says, getting the thing on as hand luggage in the UK is all well and good... it can be different in other countries... and not many people appreciate the delicate nature/expense of some instruments.

The Bass Safe is a good option... and so is a full flight case... but don't be surprise if accidents still happen. When taking one of my GBs out to the states, the flightcase (a fully fledged hardcore effort - not a cheap thing) it was in was as good as written off. Something had speared through it and just missed the neck. If the case had been the other way round, that would have been the body...

Of course, you only get to hear the horror stories - I am sure there are thousands of instruments transported without issue...

Oh yeah, and don't forget your allen keys - your neck is likely to move in the hold due to the lower temperature and in a different climate!

Thanks Russ - I didn't hear about Dave's bass - sounds stressful!

The whole thing is stressful actually - but I really want to take my Single Cut as it's good for all the stuff we're playing - I'll wrap it up tight in the case and hope for the best! I've read various reviews of the Bass Safe and most say it does a great job, one guy said he'd used it on hundreds of flights and had no bother... a couple said the latches were crappy and broke.

The other tip someone mentioned is loosen the strings off as they can snap/and or snap the neck... :)

Oh well - we'll see - it's going to be interesting, and seeing as this band is likely to do more stuff in Europe it's all good experience.

I'll let you know how I get on... and how many pieces my bass come back in! Lucky I got a new one eh? :rolleyes:

M

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 12:52 PM

View Posturb, on Jun 10 2009, 01:30 PM, said:

Thanks Russ - I didn't hear about Dave's bass - sounds stressful!

The whole thing is stressful actually - but I really want to take my Single Cut as it's good for all the stuff we're playing - I'll wrap it up tight in the case and hope for the best! I've read various reviews of the Bass Safe and most say it does a great job, one guy said he'd used it on hundreds of flights and had no bother... a couple said the latches were crappy and broke.

The other tip someone mentioned is loosen the strings off as they can snap/and or snap the neck... :)

Oh well - we'll see - it's going to be interesting, and seeing as this band is likely to do more stuff in Europe it's all good experience.

I'll let you know how I get on... and how many pieces my bass come back in! Lucky I got a new one eh? :rolleyes:

M

Yeah - he was peeved - didn't settle til he got it back. He went to the airport and the fact it wasn't there didn't help matters...

The Bass Safe would be what I would go for... especially as my flightcase looks like it is built out of gaffa tape now. Haven't got any trips abroad at the moment planned... may be going out to LA later in the year - but thats not in the forefront of my mind. If you gaffa the locks of the bass case, I can't see any problems with it.

I think the thing about loosening the strings is a myth. I tried to get a definitive answer on it - and as many people said leave them at tension as not. If you think about it, why would you loosen them? The changes in temperature is not going to shrink the strings that much to put that much extra tension on the neck... and if there is an impact that would kill the neck, it would have killed the neck regardless of the tension of the strings.

#13 JimBobTTD

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 12:59 PM

A bit of info: British Airways will let you take a "guitar size" instrument on the plane with you. This does not count towards your hand luggage. They will take it off you on the plane and put it in that cupboard at the front and/or back. Or, most likely, get you to put it in there yourself. Source: experience and http://www.britishairways.com/travel/gsans...k=searchResults

I took my Ibanez SRX500 in a hard case on a BA flight with me last summer from Terminal 5. No problems at all.
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Posted 10 June 2009 - 01:26 PM

^^ wow, so how about those cases that look like they're keyboard cases - the rectangular ones that come as standard with all the new american jazzes? Not that I've got any gigs in germany coming up or anything!



Someone sticky this!!! :)

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Posted 10 June 2009 - 03:41 PM

It's now stickied :)

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Posted 11 June 2009 - 01:21 PM

Small update I called Royal Air Moroc this morning and they said it's fine to take it on as hand luggage as long as the weight is under 10kg which I think the bass is, so hopefully that'll be fine, I really don't like the idea of the bass in the hold... Anyway I'll let you know how it all goes.

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 05:17 PM

I have flown several times with my instruments and each time I have had the instrument taken to an area where it is taken onto the plane seperately and collected from the other end at a seperate area from the carousel luggage. In March I flew to the States carrying my precious NS 5 string EUB, this is carried in a kind of gig bag, I had made no previous arrangements for the flight and expressed my concerns at the bass traveling with my guitar in the special carry on area. They called the plane and asked if it would fit in a locker, the girl described its size and weight etc. and I simply did just that (Huge thumbs up for Virgin Airways). Only on one occassion I tried to buy a seat for my guitar at the checking in desk but the flight was not full so they let me take it on as hand luggage, and I strapped it in to the seat beside me. I do know of a guitarist who was stopped for hours at an American Airport because they thought that the wireing on his guitar was some kind of bomb (this was just after 9/11) so I carry all cables, strings etc. in the case any wire cutters I put in my luggage. They X-ray everything going onto the plane anyway so it would be a lot easier to open a guitar case rather than have them trawl through your luggage. To date I have never even had to open the case. They only thing I would do as a precaution, if your bass is active then remove the battery. Another thing which makes checking in easier these days is most Airways now let you check-in on-line.

Edited by wal4string, 12 June 2009 - 05:24 PM.

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Posted 12 June 2009 - 06:01 PM

I've flown with my Basses quite a few times. I've always taken them on as hand luggage, but I've always taken them out of their cases and had them in gig bags. I've never had any problems at all. Most of the time I've managed to get them into the overhead luggage compartments. The basses in question have either been Status or my once owned Alembic Mark King. Needless to say, if the airline had insisted they went in the hold, and being as they were in gig bags I would have been in trouble. :)
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Posted 13 June 2009 - 06:43 PM

The Musicians Union has plenty of advice on this, and advice for members including an agreement with airlines for it's members.
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Posted 15 June 2009 - 07:34 PM

Hey, just got back from Morocco, I had NO problems at all with taking my bass on the plane there and back ... Had a wicked gig and two nights of fun in Rabat, we played to 1500+ people in a castle... a stunning location. And the Sei did the business and didn't suffer in the heat either, phew!

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Posted 15 June 2009 - 08:18 PM

View PostJimBobTTD, on Jun 10 2009, 02:59 PM, said:

A bit of info: British Airways will let you take a "guitar size" instrument on the plane with you. This does not count towards your hand luggage. They will take it off you on the plane and put it in that cupboard at the front and/or back. Or, most likely, get you to put it in there yourself. Source: experience and http://www.britishairways.com/travel/gsans...k=searchResults

I took my Ibanez SRX500 in a hard case on a BA flight with me last summer from Terminal 5. No problems at all.

My brother just came over on BA from Heathrow to Stockholm with my 5er in a gigbag. He put it (at the cabin crews' request) in the cupboard thingie at the front of the plane. No problems. He was, however, told by folks when checking in that he may need to put it in the hold if the crew didn't want it onboard.
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#22 jakenewmanbass

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 06:45 PM

View PostDan_Nailed, on Feb 13 2009, 07:29 PM, said:

2. Buy a case with a lock, and use it. Padlocks are OK, combination padlocks better.

I think your thread is very good Dan. Except the point above.
If customs want to get into your case, they will. So take heed of this story: Double bassist Steve Berry was travelling with his bass and had it stored inside a Stevenson fibre glass case, I've borrowed his case many times and it is enormous, it attracts attention wherever you go, from security especially... Steve put a lock on the case thinking he would be safe not letting anyone open it. Customes took a dim view of this and smashed a hole through the front of the case and inserted a camera to find that it did indeed carry only a double bass, luckily they missed the bass by milimetres but given that Steve has a gorgeous old instrument well in excess of 10K you can imagine his anguish when the case came out with a big hole in it..

My advice, don't lock your case...

Edited by jakesbass, 22 June 2009 - 06:46 PM.

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Posted 22 June 2009 - 06:51 PM

Customs suck. I sent a 6-string Warwick to myself from the USA a few years back, packed it well so it would be safe, told no fairy stories on the paperwork etc. When it arrived in the UK the package had been opened and re-sealed and I thought well, fair enough. Took the bass out to find lots of small dings in the body all over the place.

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#24 WHUFC BASS

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:05 PM

Them lovely bastards people at RyanAir now want £60 to take a guitar on board.
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View PostJean-Luc Pickguard, on Dec 13 2010, 07:04 PM, said:

Sorry but that is utter sh*te & an idiotic thing to write

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It's not casual, it's for repeated and very racist comments.

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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:19 PM

View Postjakesbass, on Jun 22 2009, 07:45 PM, said:

I think your thread is very good Dan. Except the point above.
If customs want to get into your case, they will. So take heed of this story: Double bassist Steve Berry was travelling with his bass and had it stored inside a Stevenson fibre glass case, I've borrowed his case many times and it is enormous, it attracts attention wherever you go, from security especially... Steve put a lock on the case thinking he would be safe not letting anyone open it. Customes took a dim view of this and smashed a hole through the front of the case and inserted a camera to find that it did indeed carry only a double bass, luckily they missed the bass by milimetres but given that Steve has a gorgeous old instrument well in excess of 10K you can imagine his anguish when the case came out with a big hole in it..

My advice, don't lock your case...


You can buy padlocks that customs can open but civilians can't. Customs see a locked case like a red rag to a bull....
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Posted 26 June 2009 - 01:27 PM

View PostWHUFC BASS, on Jun 26 2009, 02:05 PM, said:

Them lovely bastards people at RyanAir now want £60 to take a guitar on board.

AFAICS, the scam is you have to buy an extra seat for it, but the extra seat does not have a baggage allowance so the guitar and case has to be counted in with your other luggage. The carry-on allowance is a miserly 10Kg. More at http://www.ryanair.c.../conditions.php

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Posted 29 June 2009 - 08:13 AM

View Postwoodster, on Jun 26 2009, 02:19 PM, said:

You can buy padlocks that customs can open but civilians can't. Customs see a locked case like a red rag to a bull....
That's very interesting, and something that everone should be aware of...
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#28 sdgrsr400

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Posted 09 July 2009 - 05:15 PM

One man's experience:


#29 leftybassman392

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Posted 13 July 2009 - 10:59 AM

Got a question if anybody feels able to answer.

I've bought a couple of basses from sellers in the US, and there's a chance that I'll be able to go across to pick them up early/mid August. Anything I should know about bringing them into the UK by air?

Any helpful hints would be much appreciated.
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#30 urb

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Posted 16 July 2009 - 04:07 PM

View Postjakesbass, on Jun 22 2009, 07:45 PM, said:

I think your thread is very good Dan. Except the point above.
If customs want to get into your case, they will. So take heed of this story: Double bassist Steve Berry was travelling with his bass and had it stored inside a Stevenson fibre glass case, I've borrowed his case many times and it is enormous, it attracts attention wherever you go, from security especially... Steve put a lock on the case thinking he would be safe not letting anyone open it. Customes took a dim view of this and smashed a hole through the front of the case and inserted a camera to find that it did indeed carry only a double bass, luckily they missed the bass by milimetres but given that Steve has a gorgeous old instrument well in excess of 10K you can imagine his anguish when the case came out with a big hole in it..

My advice, don't lock your case...

Just to add to this that while I took my bass in the cabin no problem - my suitcase was in the hold and for no other reason than peace of mind I had a small padlock keeping the zip shut - and yes they removed the padlock between me checking it in and receiving it at the destination - so I completely agree - don't lock your case.

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